Jem and the Holograms #1-2
Never having watched the cartoon show, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy the new licensed comic. I shouldn’t have worried — writer Kelly Thompson and artist Sophie Campbell do a terrific job setting up and refreshing the premise for today’s audience.
I want to call particular attention to Campbell’s art and the coloring by M. Victoria Robado. (You can see preview pages online.) The book’s style is clean, open, and exciting, due to the candy colors and the expressive, diversely-styled figures. These pages were attractively welcoming, drawing me in past my lack of knowledge of these characters.
They’re quickly well-defined, though. Jerrica is the meek duckling among her wildly vibrant friends and bandmates. It can all be seen through their hair, actually. Jerrica’s simple, professional, naturally colored bob stands out from the Crayola-hued explosions sported by Kimber, Aja, and Shana. Their hair is significant and space-taking, boldly expressing their presence. They defy gravity and typical expectations. In contrast, Jerrica’s hair says she wants to fit in and be unnoticed.
That’s because she’s paralyzed by stage fright, despite her talented singing and songwriting. The other members support her — and the way the comic portrays sisterhood while allowing for disagreements is welcome to see — but she’s getting in the way of their dreams. There’s a video competition with the more-established Misfits, who anchor issue #2. The Holograms have to get their performance shot and entered before the deadline, which drives Jerrica to discover Synergy, a holographic computer that gives her a legacy from her deceased father.
(I know it comes from the original premise, but I found myself wondering during all this — what happened to Mom? It’s all too typical of comics to ignore the maternal parent, who in real life is often more of an influence on kids than the father is, but I have faith that Thompson and Campbell will get to explaining where she is and how much of an influence she had on raising these exceptional young women.)
Jerrica’s “magic earrings” allow her to masquerade as Jem, the outgoing band leader. And the woman with the most excessive hair of any of them, in her signature hot pink.
The second issue introduces the Misfits, the competitor band, with an astounding montage of character closeups punctuated by their lyrics flowing through the pages. It’s an impressive way to try and capture music in an audio-less medium, and I love the way the text is bilious neon green and black over lavender, the traditional villain combo of purple and green.
We learn more about the coming showdown, with the winner of the video contest getting to be on stage for a band battle against the Misfits for a potential recording contract. More important to me was the introduction of Rio, entertainment reporter who seeks out Jerrica to learn more about both the band and her.
Thompson and Campbell have done a wonderful job modernizing classic concepts — duckling becomes swan, the quest for glory and success — for both old and new readers. Their use of social media, with the video contest and the sprinkled-in mentions of Twitter and the like, feels current and authentic. I also loved seeing the Holograms interacting at home, celebrating how well their video turned out and optimistically planning for the future. Plus, Kimber and Stormer together are so cute, forging an inter-band friendship.
Each of the first two issues also includes character profiles for the main players, making for convenient reference for the new reader. The first storyline is planned to be six issues, and issue #3 promises a Holograms performance in public for the first time.